Happy 2016! This quad flew by horrendously quickly, did it not? How is it already the Olympic year?! In honor of the Games this summer, we’re very excited to introduce our new feature to help introduce you to each country’s new seniors, those 2000-born babies who turn 16 just in time for Rio.
When Romania failed to qualify a full team to the Olympic Games at last year’s worlds, many fans asked how they could turn their situation around and whether any new seniors could potentially help with the problem. Below are the eight new seniors adding depth to the Romanian program, a couple of whom could definitely be in contention for the team this summer. But even if they don’t end up making it, we hope you enjoy getting to know a bit more about each of these talented gals!
If anyone makes an impact for Romania this year, my bet is on this girl. Of those born in 2000, Andreea Ciurusniuc was the strongest all-arounder at this year’s national championships, earning a 54.65 with especially promising work on beam and floor. She reminds me a bit of Laura Jurca in that she can quietly contribute everywhere, which is very important on a five-member team, though her issue would be fitting into the top three on any event.
Of course, the big question is bars. Ciurusniuc’s actually aren’t all that bad…there are some form issues, some leg separations, and some missed handstands, but she has good building blocks and solid releases, works really hard at trying to keep her form tight when she does break, and most importantly, she hit 75% of her routines last year, which is pretty high for Romania.
Ciurusniuc was given more international assignments in 2015 than any other new Romanian senior, including at the Four Nations Trophy, the European Youth Olympic Festival, and Elite Gym Massilia, and she’s part of the Rio training group at Izvorani. It seems they are definitely taking her seriously, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get a nod at least for the test event. With a little more polish and some upgrades here and there, she is definitely one to watch.
We didn’t see Maria Holbura compete internationally at all in 2015 until Elite Gym Massilia rolled around, and she looked greatly improved compared to a year prior. Her form on bars is actually shockingly good, but she is definitely a bit wild with her control both there and everywhere. Could you trust her to hit in competition?
Beam is my favorite event of Holbura’s. She works very well on the apparatus and could get in the mid-to-high 14s there if she hits, which would make her a great leadoff athlete in a team final before Catalina Ponor and Larisa Iordache are unleashed.
At Massilia, she was the second-best Romanian with a score of 54.2 in the all-around, and that was with a fall on beam. There’s definitely potential there but I think I’d want to reel her in a bit before unleashing her on a major world stage. Considering her improvement between 2013 and 2014, I don’t doubt her ability to get even better in her first senior year.
Little Anda Butuc was one of the talks of the town in 2014, competing all over Europe as one of the strongest Romanian juniors that year, especially on bars and beam, though the leg events tend to hold her back.
At Jesolo, she posted a 52.05 in the all-around (13.6 on bars, 13.5 on beam), at a friendly meet in France multiple falls on bars and a fall on beam meant just a 48.65 in the all-around there, and at the junior European Championships, she competed everywhere but vault, helping her team to a third-place finish with an especially impressive 14.066 on beam, second-best for juniors that day. Butuc qualified to event finals there, but a fall took her out of the running for the podium, as she earned a 13.333. Later in the year, Butuc competed on three events at Romanian Championships, but didn’t have the best meet, and then fell on bars in event finals.
We didn’t see her at all outside of the junior nationals this summer, where her bars work looked especially nice, showing long lines and clean form despite a few little technical errors. It’s still not a very difficult routine, however, and though her layout double full dismount is unique, it’s only a C element and doesn’t fulfill requirements.
With her beauty and elegance, Butuc is the kind of gymnast I want to see succeed for Romania, but I don’t think at this point 2016 will be her year.
Stanciu is a gymnast with lots of promise, though so far in her career she’s been a bit flaky when it comes to hitting. She didn’t move from Deva to Izvorani until early in 2015, so she’s still quite new to the scene.
This summer, she had some nice performances at junior nationals, especially on floor.
However, when given an opportunity to compete internationally at the Junior Japan International in Yokohama, she choked under pressure and placed 14th with a score of just 49.65. With scores in the low 13s on all four of her events, it’s hard to see where she could fit in.
If anything, I think Stanciu could be the kind of new senior who doesn’t make an immediate impact, but becomes someone the team can rely on in the year following the Olympics. She certainly has talent and a great style, but I just can’t see her doing anything in 2016 unless she makes some major improvements in the coming months.
In 2014, Orzu was among those that traveled to Gymnix, where she had the best Romanian finish – 14th in the all-around with a 51.375 in addition to the bronze medal on beam, her best event, with a 13.375. She had a similar performance in Jesolo, though missed beam there, and she wasn’t one of the girls named to the Euros team. She ended her 2014 season with a ninth place finish at nationals, but earned just a 49.225 in the all-around.
Orzu was promoted from Deva to Izvorani along with Stanciu at the start of 2015, and also went to Junior Japan, where her results were slightly better, though she didn’t show much improvement from 2014. She finished 13th in the all-around with a 51.2, and went on to place fourth on beam with a 13.833 and fifth on floor with a 13.566…good scores for the junior, but not competitive enough to contend with others, especially on the events that just happen to be her nation’s strongest.
Despite having a better finish than Stanciu, she was demoted back to Deva at the end of 2015 and is not part of the Rio training squad.
The word “style” is synonymous with Peng, who was one of the most-anticipated juniors when she was a bit younger and has fantastic presentation on beam and floor.
In 2014, Peng had a rough meet at Jesolo, earning a 49.95, but managed to finish eighth at a friendly meet in France with a 51.7, and that was with errors on floor. Performing on three events at nationals, she managed to make both the bars and beam finals, and competed better than some of the seniors on beam, with a 13.5 for fifth place there.
She really opened people’s eyes with her performance at Coupe Avenir at the end of the year, however. Though she didn’t have a great all-around meet, posting a 49.116 with mistakes or falls on nearly all of her events, she came back to top the podium in both the beam and floor finals, putting up solid difficulty and very clean work to total a 13.95 and a 14.15, respectively. But it was more her ability to captivate the crowd than anything else at this meet, and it looked like she might be someone to potentially come in big for 2016.
This year, Peng showed an upgraded floor routine at junior nationals, and at Romanian Championships, she showed great improvement from her earlier days, with a 53.55 in the all-around and a 14.1 on floor. Still, given what her teammates could do, this wasn’t impressive enough and she too was demoted to Deva.
There’s been a lot of drama around this decision, but Peng’s parents were the most outspoken, with her mother claiming that Peng, who was first sent to Izvorani back in 2012, was the “victim of a system that doesn’t respect athletes.” Her mom believes that sending athletes to Deva means that they are no longer important to the country, and said in the press that it was unfair for Romania to end the careers those just 15 years old who have devoted their lives to the sport. She also said it was ridiculous that Peng beat Stanciu at a meet in France, but Stanciu gets to stay at Izvorani while Peng does not. Mama Peng has contacted the FIG with her complaints about the Romanian system, though it’s highly unlikely it will be taken seriously.
Adrian Stoica, the president of the Romanian federation, did an interview with ProSport in which he said there was a logical reasoning for selecting the girls who would stay at Izvorani versus those who would go to Deva, and Peng simply didn’t make the cut. She wasn’t being thrown out of the sport, and was still being given an opportunity to train and compete in elite gymnastics, albeit not at the highest level.
Vrabie originally comes from CSA Steaua Bucharest, home to Olympic champions from every quad since 2000. She began to make waves at age 11 and by 2013, she was included on the squad at Izvorani thanks to her lovely lines and perfect execution.
She hoped to make the junior Euros team in 2014, but serious health issues she first began dealing with in 2013 took her out of training. In 2015, Vrabie had both knee and elbow surgery, and as of now, hasn’t competed in nearly two years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a big surprise when she was demoted to Deva along with Orzu and Peng at the end of last year.
Florea hasn’t competed internationally since Gymnix in 2014, where she was 22nd with a 49.433. She had a lot of success in the earlier levels of the sport, but didn’t quite grow enough in her difficulty or ability to make an impact later on, and then injuries took her out for much of the past year.
She emerged at junior nationals this year with a Yurchenko back tuck on vault, an easy and messy bars routine, a messy beam, and a solid floor routine, though once again easy and with many technical errors.
Article by Lauren Hopkins